11 Athletic LEG Exercises for Explosiveness and Definition

October 31, 2017 by VAHVA Fitness

11 Athletic plyometrics and other leg exercises to develop an athletic physique and to improve athletic performance.

Every body part matters in athletic training, but your lower body and core should be the priority of your training (this is true for most sports and functional fitness) for the maximal athleticism. 

One of the greatest benefits of leg training is that it will improve directly and indirectly the posture of your entire body.

Just think about it: every day you are walking and standing on your feet. If your hips are not straight, your upper body likely isn't either.

If the legs are imbalanced and weak, your entire spine and upper body has terrible support. This will slowly lead to compromised posture in the upper body.

Posture matters and if you look at the best athletes, they are structurally balanced and have a great posture. Posture is mostly nothing but a reflection of your structural balance.

Here are many excellent exercises to target many parts of the lower body with tons of variety. Many of these exercises are advanced (jumps and several others) while others can be utilized by beginners. 

For explosive exercises, focus on 5+ sets and low repetitions (3-10) and plenty of rest. The less explosive exercises can be done with higher volume: 10-20 repetitions.

Just remember that repetitions don't really count, but how you do the repetitions is what actually matters.

Also bear in mind that an advanced exercise starts to only produce great results when the basics are mastered. This is because otherwise you will not be able to utilize the exercises correctly and do them with the right form.

Before you learn to run and jump, you need to learn how to crawl and walk. Movement 20XX online course was designed to make normal people strong, mobile and athletic everywhere

M-20XX has strengthening exercises, mobility drills and flow movements to target all parts of the body. 6 month structured program (which for many may take longer than that) is also included!

Heel Clap Jump

heel clap jump

Heel clap jump is an explosive exercise mainly for the glutes and adductors (inner thighs) but many other leg muscles like hamstrings and quads are also worked.

You take a wide stance and then jump as explosively as you can. After you jump you clap your heels together. By pulling your thighs together you will be developing the inner thighs.

Straddle Jump

straddle jump

Straddle jump is designed to develop the gluteus muscles - especially the lateral glutes.

You start from a normal stance squat and then explosively jump up. The jump will train the posterior chain (lower back, glutes and hamstrings). Spread the legs as wide as you can. Spreading the legs will work the lateral glutes.

You can raise the legs much higher by externally rotating the hips but you shouldn't do this. This shift the focus from your lateral glutes to hip flexors and that's something we don't want to do here.

Knees to Chest Jump

knee jump

Knees to chest jump is an outstanding exercise for the posterior chain. Bringing your knees up will target the hip flexors.

Knees to chest jump is an excellent exercise to develop explosiveness in your hip flexors. The abdominals will also work.

Keep the legs in front of you and avoid rotating the hips to make raising the legs easier.

Single Leg Jump

single leg jump

Single leg jump will unilaterally develop the posterior chain, quads and hip flexors. Jump to a low surface to ensure the purity of the form.

Some of the best benefits of the single leg jump are improved balance, stability and coordination. To maximize these benefits, you need to focus on controlled jumps. 

The height of the jump is not the goal here. The goal is improving the quality of your jumps: balance, stability and coordination.

Lateral Squat Lean & Walk

lateral lean

Lateral squat lean is a fantastic exercise to increase the strength and mobility of your inner thighs and glutes! The quads also need to work hard when you are leaning towards the leg.

Stay as low as you can and with a good form shift your weight from one side to another. Keep the core tight and stable and focus purely on the legs.

Lateral squat walk is a similar exercise but here you are walking with the low squat stance.

Taking steps with the legs will develop the lateral glutes while the supporting leg's glutes are also worked.

Crisscross Step

Crisscross step is mostly a coordination / agility exercise for the entire body. You do crisscross steps on your toes. 

By stabilizing the core with every step you will work the abs and obliques (the trunk is rotating with every step).

Walking Lunge

walking lunge

Walking lunge is one of the classics and should never get old. You will be mainly training the glutes and hamstrings. 

Forward walking lunge is a very different exercise to many other lunge variations or split squat variations. 

You are continuously moving forward which means that the focus is on the glutes and hamstrings more than on any other muscle group. If you were to take a step backward with the lunge, you would work more the quads.

The common mistake is to use the lower back to raise yourself up. For the best form, keep the core tight so your leg development is maximized. 

Back Step

athletic plyometric exercises back step

Back step is a great exercise for the entire lower body but here you will emphasize more the quads than with the previous exercises.

You are leaning on your back leg in a low stance which requires tons of stabilization from the quads. You can also use the front leg to push yourself back which is also mostly done by quads.

Squat low with every step and make it a flowy movement.

Curtsy Lunge Kick

curtsy lunge kick

Curtsy lunge is the female favorite because it's such a good exercise to target the lateral glutes. Your outer head of quadriceps is also developed.

You do the curtsy lunge by taking a cross step back and when you raise yourself up, you do a leg kick. This leg raise will develop the quadriceps and hip flexors.

In the beginning it's fine to do the kick with a bent leg. Focus on controlled execution to really make the curtsy lunge effective.

Boxer Squat Knee Raise (on toes!)

boxer squat knee raise

Boxer squat with a knee raise is the most difficult exercise listed here because you are standing on your toes!

This boxer squat variation requires a great deal of balance and stabilization from your lower body (especially calves).

To make the boxer squat even harder, you are raising the knee up at the top. This knee raise works the hip flexors of the front leg while developing stability in the supporting leg.

A fantastic exercise for increasing athletic ability but this is an advanced exercise that will only start producing benefits after the basics are mastered.


samuli jyrkinen

About the author 

Samuli Jyrkinen

Samuli is the ninja behind the scenes (photography, videography, websites, program platforms and more). He has been training religiously for over a decade and has a firm grasp of physical and mental fitness. You will find our story here.

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